New Mexico State University is in the žland of enchantmentÓ and is as enchanting as the people who live there. A diverse group of people are represented there as well: Anglos, Hispanics, Native Americans, and African-Americans (in Alburqueque). The College of Education maintains that teacher preparation for the 21st century reflects the many faces of New Mexico's children--from a multicultural perspective. The Department of Curriculum and Instruction adheres to the sound pedagogies that involve Second Language Acquisition (SLA) learning theories. New Mexico was the first state in the nation to pass the Enlgish Plus Laws--recogninzing and valuing the native languages of the citizens of New Mexico. The Keystone Project will involve the pre-service teachers enrolled in a tech integration class in the College of Education. The pre-service students will be working with 6th graders (all Hispanic) on the Mexican-New Mexican border. Together, they will co-investigate this desert marsh with Mr.Ortiz' 6th grade class--truly reflecting a community of learners.
A representative from the Keystone Foundation has written a local college professor asking for students in the teacher education program to help put together an education component for Keystone's Interpretive Center. Some sixth graders have also been recruited so that pre-service teachers and students will co-investigate for Keystone. The project will be introduced to each class separately by the respective instructors. There will be two Field Trips to Keystone; one at the beginning of the project and one at the end. The students will meet online in between the face to face meetings. They will work together to brainstorman and make their own decisions about the project. After they divide into groups based on their interests, students will meet online on a weekly basis and will be responsible for choosing their roles within their groups, creating a group contract agreement, and choosing their own direction. Students may use e-mail, bulletin boards, web cameras, and chat software to locate and collaborate with the university students. Mr.Ortiz' 6th grade class at Desert View Elementary will work together with the pre-service teachers from the college, Keystone Foundation officials, and experts in the field to uncover the secrets of this ancient marsh. Students will divide into areas of expertise: soil experts, water experts, and waterfowl experts so that if questions come up in those areas, students will be able to field them to their respective experts. These experts will go on to author the web page featuring their areas of expertise.
Student teachers will be shown how to use the college's digital cameras. Both the college students and the sixth graders will meet the first week during a field trip to Keystone--a semester-long project. The students might choose to produce a database of waterfowl and provide evidence that they have researched the local wetlands and decide on the best course of action. A field trip will enrich the project and solidify this team of researchers with a face to face meeting. Here, students will further decide the course of their studies. Large pieces of newsprint and markers will be available to help students brainstorm and map out their teams' goals. Then these teams will further plan and decide the course of their research, their online communications, and the ultimate face to face reunion . Students will take photos with both regular cameras and digital cameras. Once back in the classrooms, students will begin their research and present their findings in their chat enviroments during class time on Wednesdays at 12:30 p.m. For the pre-service teachers, this will mean that they will be available to chat with the sixth graders for 2 hours. During this weekly meeting, students may be researching, selecting, studying, and deciding which species of bird, soil specimens, or water samples to be documented for the website's wetlands database. The student-teachers will learn how to design curriculum for this project that will help Keystone teach the children of this region. Their professor will guide them in choosing their learning goals, mapping out the curriculum, and working with Keystone officials on implementation of the educational outreach programs. Student-teacher teams can further be split into summer curriculum, school-year curriculum, and weekend acitivities for the park. Student teachers will use a variety of research tools throughout the project and work with the sixth graders in guiding students through chat discussion how to use technology in the documentation process. Student teachers will give weekly mini-workshops on WWW, e-mail, water quality test kits, digital cameras, scanners, word processor and database software, web cameras, and scientists in the field. In turn they will be keeping a log of student interactions which will help them learn how to design curriculum for engaged learning projects. After these mini workshops for sixth graders, three mixed teams of eight are formed, with each team preparing a detailed description of the soil, water, and the waterfowl for the web site. The web site contributions like the waterfowl database, water quality tests, soil samples, classroom participation, and student presentations are used to assess student learning. The student teachers work together to ensure that each 6th student will have the opportunity to be the lead for a week. These sixth graders will be responsible for facilitating the work and communication.
Sessions described above are student-teacher-guided. After these sessions, all students work collaboratively in class and outside of class to complete their investigations. The teacher role shifts to that of facilitator and manager, acting as the on-site consultant and troubleshooter to the various student teams. These electronic products will not only serve as a producst for pre-service teachers to place in their digital portfolios but also a teaching strategy for them to use in their classrooms.
Throughout the project, the teachers and students will refer to a project-grading rubric. In addition, based on periodic assignments and project log entries, the teachers will monitor progress and better anticipate and suggest alternatives to potential problem areas as they arise. During this stage of the project, communication between the pre-service teachers and the sixth graders is critical.
Students will contact government authorities if it is warranted and they will devise and test the water and soil. Students from the elementary and the pre-serivce teachers will communicate and share information throughout the process. The results of their hard work will be showcased through the Keystone Foundation's website
Author: Michele Stafford-Levy
School: New Mexico State University, Las Cruces, New Mexico
Created: February 15, 2001 Modified: April 11, 2001